GENEVA: The head of the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday pinned full responsibility for Russia’s sporting exile on the Kremlin, insisting Russian athletes should not prosper while their Ukrainian counterparts suffer.
The IOC on Monday urged sports federations to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes following the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, having already urged the cancelation or relocation of planned sports events.
The move quickly led to Russia becoming an international sporting pariah.
IOC president Thomas Bach said Moscow and Minsk were in clear breach of the Olympic truce, which started on February 4 and runs until seven days after the end of the Winter Paralympics in Beijing.
“This is the responsibility of the Russian government. We should not fall into this trap of the propaganda there, to say that this is a political act,” Bach told reporters.
“This is the consequence of the violation of the Olympic truce and the Olympic charter by their government.”
He added: “There can be no doubt where we are standing in this aggression, in this war: we are standing at the side of peace.”
Bach said fair competition simply could not go ahead if Russian athletes were freely taking part while their Ukrainian counterparts were under assault.
“We would have had to face a situation where Ukrainian athletes and officials are seeking shelter in the subway in Kiev for the bombing — and on the other hand, you would have had the Russian athletes competing in competitions they (Ukrainians) would have liked to compete in, or even taking their places,” he said.
Bach said it was unknown how many athletes had fled Ukraine among the 875,000 refugees who have so far sought shelter in neighboring countries.
“We do not know how many members of the Ukrainian Olympic community have left the country and are refugees right now and where they are, but we are working on this,” he said.
Bach praised Russian athletes who have spoken out in favor of peace, despite the risks to their liberty.
He also insisted that if others chose to stay silent, it did not mean they backed the invasion — and could well mean the opposite.
“Thousands of Russians who have spoken out for peace have been detained,” Bach said.
“It is a risk now, apparently, for every Russian to speak out in favor of peace, so you cannot interpret silence as agreement with the war. Maybe even the contrary is correct.”
Earlier Wednesday, Russian and Belarusian athletes were given the green light to compete at the Beijing Winter Games.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said they will take part as neutrals and will compete under the Paralympic flag and not be included in the medal table.
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